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Abuse Using Technology

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Updated: August 23, 2016

What specific crimes come under the category of “electronic surveillance?”

There are various laws that an abuser may be breaking by electronically surveilling someone or by recording someone’s private conversation without their consent.   

Some states have specific laws that address the recording of telephone, online, or in-person conversations.  If someone who is not a part of your conversation records the conversation without your consent, it may be illegal even if you know that person is listening to you speak.   Below, we give general definitions of various types of crimes.  To read the specific language of the laws in your state, go to our Crimes page.


Wiretap is a form of electronic surveillance where a person monitors or records telephone communications.  Most typically, people think of wiretapping as a way that law enforcement tracks criminals or gets access to incriminating evidence.  However, wiretaps are also something that abusers and stalkers have misused to listen in on and record telephone conversations. Many states have laws that criminalize wiretapping. In addition, most state wiretap laws also address whether someone who is part of a conversation is allowed to record that conversation without the permission of others.


Interception occurs when someone who is not part of a conversation uses technology to interfere with the communication so that s/he can overhear or record the conversation.  Interception laws usually apply to communication other than telephone conversations, such as email and text messages.  Many states may have either an interception law or a wiretap law; so, if you don’t find one in your state, look for the other.


Eavesdropping is the crime of listening in on or recording another person’s private conversation without the consent of one or both of the parties.  Eavesdropping can be done in various ways, some of which may not involve complex technology.  For example, if you are talking on a landline at home, someone else can pick up another receiver in your home and listen in.  If someone wants to record your conversations, this could be done on a basic tape recorder or by using an app or software to monitor and record conversations on your smartphone.  Eavesdropping laws generally apply when the parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy.


Invasion of privacy laws can apply to situations where an abuser misuses technology, such as a surveillance device, in order to observe, monitor, or record your personal or private activities.  This may include taking nude or partially nude photos or videos without your consent.  It can also include when an intimate partner secretly videotapes sexual acts without the consent of his/her partner.  Voyeurism refers to the act of spying on someone for sexual pleasure.  Voyeurism does not always include videotaping or the use of electronic devices (it may apply to physically spying on someone), but the act of videotaping your sexual activity (or nudity) without your consent and knowledge could fall under the crime of voyeurism if there is no “invasion of privacy” law in your state.